Research Profile

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The lab group in October 2021

Global biodiversity is changing at an unprecedented pace in response to a multitude of anthropogenic drivers, leading to considerable losses of ecological, economic, and societal benefits of biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Developing science-based solutions in order to minimize these negative impacts requires an in-depth understanding of the distribution, origin, and maintenance of biodiversity.

The Biodiversity, Macroecology and Biogeography group is involved in a variety of research projects that address ecological and biogeographical questions at different scales. Our research aims to document general trends in the spatial distribution of biodiversity, to better understand the underlying processes and to develop knowledge, theory, and tools for applied questions in conservation. To this end, we employ integrative appraoches at the interface of macroecology, biogeography, conservation biology, and bioinformatics.

Research projects

Ecological and Socioeconomic Functions of Tropical Lowland Rainforest Transformation Systems (EFForTS)

How can we maintain ecological functions of lowland rainforest and agricultural systems like oil palm and rubber plantations while improving human welfare? The EFForTS CRC990 project in Sumatra (Indonesia) aims to provide high-quality science on this highly relevant issue. In the EFFortTS subproject B06, we aim to quantify the effects of rainforest conversion on plant diversity and ecosystem functioning and to elucidate the underlying mechanisms. To do so, we integrate different dimensions of plant diversity (species diversity, functional and phylogenetic diversity, native vs. alien naturalized species) and investigate how plant diversity is affected by conversion of rainforest and land-use changes from local to landscape scales. Furthermore, we are involved in EFForTS-BEE, a long-term biodiversity enrichment experiment in oil palm. The experiment was established in December 2013 by the planting islands of native tree species in a monoculture oil palm plantation. The aim of the enrichment experiment is to analyse trade-offs between ecological and economic functions and to contribute to the development of ecologically improved management concepts in oil palm landscapes.

Contact: Gustavo Paterno, Fabian Brambach

Diversity Turn in Land Use Science

The Project „Diversity Turn in Land Use Science“ investigates the social, economic and ecological impacts of vanilla cultivation in North-Eastern Madagascar from a transdisciplinary perspective. Within this project we investigates the value of different kind of vanilla plantations and alternative land-uses for biodiversity with a special focus on birds, amphibians and reptiles. By integrating our data with socio-economic findings on yields, work input and land assets of households, we hope to develop recommendations for sustainable land-use in this biodiversity hotspot.

Contact: Dominic Martin

The Global Inventory of Floras and Traits (GIFT)

GIFT is an initiative to create a database of regional plant checklists with complete global coverage for large-scale biogeographical and macroecological analyses based on plant species identities and regional species composition. To this end, GIFT includes regional plant species lists based on published and unpublished floras and checklists as well as online databases. At the level of individual plant species, GIFT contains functional traits as well as taxonomic and phylogenetic information. At the level of geographic regions, it additionally contains information on physical geographic, bioclimatic and socio-economic characteristics.

Contact: Patrick Weigelt

BIOVERA - Exploration and explanation of biodiversity patterns along gradients of climate, soil and disturbance in Central Veracruz, Mexico

BIOVERA aims to assess the influence of anthropogenic disturbances and abiotic factors on the plant diversity patterns along elevations gradients of elevation and forest use intensity on the eastern slopes of Cofre de Perote mountain in central Veracruz, Mexico. The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Centro de Investigaciones Tropicales, Universidad Veracruzana, Mexico, the University of Göttingen and the University of Oldenburg.

Contact: Leticia Monge Gonzáles, Valeria Guzmán

Coral islands in West Papua: A model system for functional and taxonomic diversity and the resilience of isolated habitats

The numerous islands of the Raja Ampat archipelago in West Papua (Indonesia) are an ideal model system to study ecological processes and drivers of biodiversity for small, fragmented, and isolated habitats. We use trees to study the effects of area, environmental heterogeneity, and isolation on species composition and functional diversity and how these affect the species-area relationship with special regard to the small-island effect.

Contact: Julian Schrader

Spatial and Temporal Scaling of Biodiversity and Environment

Environmental conditions and biodiversity both vary across a wide range of temporal and spatial scales and are tightly connected (Stein & Kreft, Biological Reviews). Understanding how environmental conditions and heterogeneity affect the distributions of individuals and species is thus vital for our general understanding of emergent properties at the level of communities such as species diversity or endemism. The main aims of this project are i) to develop and apply novel methods to quantify environmental heterogeneity across spatial and temporal scales taking advantage of novel global environmental data sets, ii) to establish scaling relationships between island area, age, and different dimensions of environmental heterogeneity, and iii) to relate those to macroecological and biogeographical patterns and processes.

Contact: Paola Barajas


DynaCom analyses the interplay of regional processes (dispersal, colonization) and local interactions (competition, trophic interactions, mutualisms) to assess the dynamics of community composition on island ecosystems.
The research unit addresses both terrestrial and coastal marine communities integrating field observation, a large-scale field experiment, modelling and data analysis.

Contact: Isis Petrocelli